Geographical and geological description

Magna Britannia: Volume 6, Devonshire. Originally published by T Cadell and W Davies, London, 1822.

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Daniel Lysons. Samuel Lysons, 'Geographical and geological description', in Magna Britannia: Volume 6, Devonshire, (London, 1822) pp. ccxxxii-cclxv. British History Online [accessed 19 May 2024].

Daniel Lysons. Samuel Lysons. "Geographical and geological description", in Magna Britannia: Volume 6, Devonshire, (London, 1822) ccxxxii-cclxv. British History Online, accessed May 19, 2024,

Lysons, Daniel. Lysons, Samuel. "Geographical and geological description", Magna Britannia: Volume 6, Devonshire, (London, 1822). ccxxxii-cclxv. British History Online. Web. 19 May 2024,

In this section


Situation, Boundaries, Extent, &c. — Devonshire is a maritime county in the south-west of England, bounded on the north-east by Somersetshire; east and south, by a part of Dorsetshire and the English channel; west, by Cornwall and the Bristol channel; and north, by the Bristol channel. It is about 70 miles from north to south; 65 from east to west; and about 280 in circumference. It is calculated, that it has, altogether, above 130 miles of sea-coast. Fraser computed its contents at 1,600,000 acres; Vancouver says, that the most modern calculation assigns it an area of 1,595,309 acres; or, 2493 miles. It appears by the Ordnance Survey to be 1,519,360 acres, or 2374 square miles.

Fraser supposes, that there are about 320,000 acres, being a fifth of the whole county in waste land. Dartmoor alone, has been estimated at 100,000. Fraser computes it at 80,000; but Mr. T. Gray's survey makes it only 53,644 acres. Former computations had included, probably, the very extensive and numerous commons (fn. n1) which adjoin; the owners of which, being freeholders, on paying certain small sums, have a right of pasture thereon. These are called venville tenants, or having right of venville. There are also very extensive commons adjoining to Exmoor; commons of great extent near Bridestowe; besides Roborough-down, Blackdown, near Plymouth, Blackdown on the borders of Somersetshire, Haldon, &c. &c. &c. The cultivated land is, perhaps, pretty equally divided between arable and pasture; but the greater portion is of the latter: in the South Hams, arable predominates in a proportion of at least three to one; in the north of Devon, pasture prevails in about the same proportion; and both in the east and the extreme western part of the county the greater part of the cultivated land is in pasture.

Soils, Strata, &c. — The soil of Devon is extremely various, but may be generally characterised according to the rock, or stratified substances which it covers, as granitical, slatey, calcareous, arenaceous, argillaceous, gravelly, and loamy. The poorest of all these, is the soil which covers the granite of Dartmoor, which has also the disadvantages of a cold wet climate: that which lies on the slate district, is more or less fertile, and fit for all the purposes of agriculture. Very extensive tracts, however, of this soil, are of a thin staple; others are in contact with a cold bed of clay; and some are so elevated as to have a very low degree of temperature. Generally speaking, the more broken the surface of the country is, the less it partakes of these defects, the broadest swells being the most barren. The portions of this soil, which are the most distinguished for their fertility, appear to be indebted for it to the contiguity of limestone, or greenstone rocks, which occur in so many parts of the slate district, particularly in the South Hams.

The red colour which characterises the best soils both in the South Hams and the eastern division of the county, and which seems to be so closely connected with the principle of fertility, proceeds from an abundant mixture of iron, in a highly oxidated state.

An intelligent correspondent, professionally acquainted with the lands of this district (fn. n2), observes, "the surface and soil of that part of the South Hams which is bounded by the rivers Dart and Erme, generally speaking, is a red loam of a hazel-nut brown colour, mostly on a substratum of of slate, small fragments of rotten slate being frequently mixed with it.

"This soil is rich and friable. The hills and slopes are excellent corn and sheep lands; the valleys are remarkably rich, and are converted into orchards and watered meadows; the first producing excellent cyder, and the latter the finest of hay, and the earliest of grass: it may be said of almost every spring, that it is almost equal to any in the kingdom for irrigation.

"The soil of that part of the South Hams which lies on the east side of the river Dart, and between it and Torbay, is somewhat of the same colour, but more red and rich; generally on a substratum of marble rock. This part produces excellent pasture for cattle; the valleys, like those before described, are converted into orchards and watered meadows. The other part of the South Hams, situated to the north-west of the river Erme, is nearly similar to those already described, lying on slate, marble, and in some instances, on clay."

There is abundance of rich meadow land also in the vales of the Exe and the Otter.

A considerable part of the county northward of Hatherleigh and Holsworthy, and extending eastward to Chulmleigh, Bradninch, &c., is chiefly on clay. A large district extending from Dartmoor, westward to the Tamar; northward to Hatherleigh and Holsworthy; and eastward towards Newton Bushell, is chiefly sandy or gravelly. To the north-east of the Taw, the soil is of a light quality, on a substratum of grey wacke, or, as it is called in Devonshire, dunstone. Towards Hartland Point there is much clay and moorland: a vein of black soil runs through Filleigh and Swimbridge; and a narrow vein of the red soil from North Molton to Challocombe: the soil about Blackdown and Haldon is flinty.

The rich red soil before described, and which is of great depth, is sometimes used as a manure for the poorer lands. The chief manures of the county are sea sand, brought in great quantities from Bude, on the north coast; for the conveyance of which a canal is now making; and lime. Westcote, who wrote in the reign of Charles I., speaks of the latter as an excellent manure, then lately come into use.

"The strata of this county are so disposed, that a very considerable portion of its entire area will be found to belong to the same formation as Cornwall; and the remainder, which occupies about one-third, may be referred with propriety to Somersetshire and Dorsetshire: in the language of geologists, Devonshire is a primitive country on the west, a secondary country on the east, and a country of transition on the north, as well as on the south from Torbay to Plymouth.

"The characteristic features of this county are, three very elevated groups of hills, which have had a great influence in determining its hydrographical outline. One of these, (Dartmoor,) is wholly included in the boundary of the county: the others, (Exmoor and Blackdown,) are included in part only: they belong to three distinct systems of formation.

"The forms of these elevated districts are in some measure characteristic of this difference in the nature of their constituent strata: Dartmoor, which presents the broadest surface, being steep only at its base, or line of junction with the surrounding district of argillaceous slate; Blackdown being distinguished by its tabular summits, and Exmoor, by the gradual rise and expansion of the hills which cluster around it. Some difference too may be perceived in the direction of the ridges which constitute the principal features of these highland districts; for those of Exmoor run nearly east and west; those of Blackdown, at right angles to the former; while the predominating undulations of the surface of Dartmoor are nearly in the direction of north-west and south-east: the hills of Haldon being here considered as insulated ridges, belonging to the same formation as Blackdown.

"The watersheds of Dartmoor and Exmoor are principally to the south. as well as those of the Devonshire portion of Blackdown; the highest points, therefore, lie to the north of each. In respect to the interior of Dartmoor, the inclination of the line of descent in the unbroken surface of this high district, is not very considerable. The same may be observed of the slate district which surrounds Dartmoor, and extends through a great part of Devonshire; and it is moreover remarkable, that some of the highest points in the county are the farthest removed from this moor; a circumstance which is very plainly indicated by the rise and semi-circular bend of the Torridge, the sources of which river lie near the north coast, at a very small distance from those of the Tamar. The two other great rivers of this county point out in the same manner the varying direction of its line of descent; the Taw, which runs northward, taking its rise both from Dartmoor and Exmoor; and the Exe, which runs southward, proceeding from Exmoor and Blackdown.

"It is a singularity worthy of remark, that the Teign, which rises on the north side of Dartmoor, should find its way by so circuitous a route to the southern coast. Many other considerable rivers flow from the heights of Dartmoor, and wind their way by deep and intricate channels to the estuaries on the same coast.

"On a nearer examination of this extensive county, with a view to the analysis of its structure, and the arrangement of the strata which compose it, in the natural order of their succession, the whole may be resolved into four grand divisions: first, the district of granite, and primitive argillaceous slate; secondly, the district of transition slate or grey wacke; thirdly, the district of red sand stone; fourthly, that of green sand. To these must be added, three small tracts occupied by lias, chalk, Bovey coal, and pipe-clay.

"To begin with the granitic strata, which are the oldest: these compose the greater part of that elevated tract which is known under the name of Dartmoor. A geological traveller, (Berger,) who crossed this district in a direction from south to north, describes its appearance in the following words. 'From Harford church, the country assumes quite a bare and Alpine appearance, presenting a vast plain, extending beyond the visible horizon. The face of the country is formed by swellings and undulations, gradually overtopping each other, without ever forming very distinct mountains.'

"The mean height of Dartmoor, according to the report of General Mudge, is 1782 feet above the level of the sea; while that of the most commanding situations around it, is only 737 feet. The same gentleman estimates the highest part of the moor, (Cawsand bog,) at 2090 feet; an elevation much inferior to that of Snowdon, and of Ben Nevis. The effects, however, of this elevation, upon the climate of the whole district, and the contiguous country, are not the less characteristic of a mountainous region. (fn. n3)

"The numerous clusters of rifted rocks, which are exposed on the surface of this dreary waste, and are known under the name of Tors, mark the long period of time during which the strata have been subject to decomposition. These insulated masses of granite appear not to have been moved by any catastrophe whatever from the position in which they were originally formed; and they owe their present figure, in a great measure, to the resistance which their more perfect crystallization has enabled them to make to the destructive influence of the atmosphere. Similar groups of rocks occur in all the granitic districts of Cornwall. The granite of Dartmoor is remarkable for the great size of the crystals of feltspar which are dispersed through its mass, and for the binary form of aggregation which they assume in many situations. Its transition into other primitive rocks has been traced in various instances on the borders of the moor, although not to any great extent. To these observations on the strata of Dartmoor, may be added, that they are metalliferous, for they not only contain veins of tin, but even the rock itself is sometimes impregnated with this metal.

"From Dartmoor, we descend on all sides to a district of argillaceous slate, which closely invests it. The average height of this district cannot much exceed 500 feet; tne greatest at which Berger perceived it to rise, at the point of contact on the south, was 631 feet; but on the western flanks of Dartmoor, it was found to rise as high as 1129 feet above the sea level; its fall from this point being proportionably rapid.

"An attempt has been made in the late ordnance map of Devon to give some idea of the very uneven surface of this large portion of the county, which has been described by an agricultural writer, (Marshall,) and not inaptly, as 'billowy in the extreme, being wholly composed of high swells, separated by close narrow valleys. Some of these swells,' he adds, 'are nearly hemispherical.'

"Nor is this character of the surface wholly independent of the strata which compose its interior. Of all the primitive rocks, argillaceous slate is that which is the most subject to decomposition; and the mouldering effects of the weather will, in part, account for the smooth and rounded form which the hills of this district have assumed. On the other hand, some variation in the nature of the slate itself, and the interposition of heterogeneous and subordinate strata, will assist to explain the cause of those differences, or anomalies, which are observable in the external character of the district.

"To particularize all these changes and transitions would exceed the limits prescribed by an abridged view of the geology of Devon. The circumstances which most deserve notice, are the beds of limestone, and the masses of greenstone, which occur in so many parts of this district. It is difficult to say, whether the former, alternating as it does with strata of obscurely characterised slate, ought not to be separated from the primitive rocks, and referred to the same period of formation with the limestone rock, which alternates with argillaceous slate, in the vicinity of Plymouth, Ashburton, Torbay, Chudleigh, and Newton Bushel, although the organic remains, which occur in greater abundance in these last, mark more decidedly their place in the transition series. Some of these detached masses of limestone rock approach pretty near to the edge of Dartmoor.

"Strata, which for the most part may be referred to the compound rock, denominated greenstone, present themselves in various parts of the slate district on the northern and western sides of Dartmoor, and appear, by their position, to be of a contemporary origin with the slate in which they occur. A singular variety of this rock, which, from its application to the purposes of building, is there called freestone, occurs in regular beds of great thickness, in the parishes of Clawton, Ashwater, Holwell, Beaworthy, and North Lew: the mass has a whitish grey colour, and is composed of minute aggregated crystals of feltspar. Those detached portions, also, of an amygdaloidal trap-rock, which have been observed in so many situations around Dartmoor, appear to have some connection with this formation.

"The argillaceous slate of Devon, in those positions where it is either contiguous to, or not far removed from the granitic rocks, is occasionally metalliferous, affording veins of tin, copper, and lead. Those of tin and lead have been opened and worked at an early period of our history; but those of copper are a comparatively recent discovery. It would be difficult to point out a mining field altogether of more geological interest than that which, in the last thirty years, has been explored both to the east and west of the town of Tavistock. The veins, or as they are here called in the mining language of Cornwall, the lodes, run nearly in the same direction as those in the adjoining county, the tin and copper lodes, north-east and south-west, approaching more or less to east and west, and the lead lodes nearly at right angles to these: all of them are intersected by lodes of more recent formation.

"In the description of the Tavistock canal, by Mr. J. Taylor, which has been printed in the Transactions of the Geological Society, many other curious particulars are stated of the lodes which abound in this part of the county; and it appears, from the section of the mining field between the Tamar and the Tavy, which is there given, that the strata contain a considerable number of alternating beds of the porphyritic rock, which is known in Cornwall under the name of elvan. Their line of bearing is east and west, and they seem to have some connection with the granitic strata which lie beneath the slate on the Cornish bank of the Tamar. The same section exhibits an instance of the conformity of the underlie of the veins to the two opposite inclinations of the surface of the hill. The principal lead lode at Beeralston is remarkable for its size, and the extent to which it has been traced. Lodes of tin and copper have been discovered in various situations in the slate district, on the south-eastern side of Dartmoor, but chiefly in the vicinity of Ashburton. Others, of lead ore, at Rattery and Dartington, on the south; at Ilsington, on the east, and at Newton St. Cyres, on the north-east of the moor.

"Adopting the language which is now so much in use, we have applied the denomination of a primitive country both to Dartmoor and to the district of slate immediately around it; but it is proper that we should now explain the nature of that distinction which geologists have thought proper to make between the strata which are of primitive, those which are of secondary, and those which are of intermediate formation. It appears then, from all the observations, that have yet been made on the interior structure of the earth, that the various stratified masses of which it is composed have been deposited in succession over each other at irregular intervals, and under very different circumstances. Those which have been formed at a period antecedent to animal or vegetable life, are not improperly called primitive, in opposition to the secondary strata, which comprehend most of the other rocks. It has, however, been found convenient to arrange in an intermediate class, such as form the link of connection between these two, some of which differ in no other respect from the strata of the first class, than in the circumstance of their containing the exuviœ above mentioned. This is the case with argillaceous slate; and the consequence has been, that great portions of country composed of this rock, are now separated from the primitive class, and arranged either among the secondary, or the intermediate; often not without some violence to natural order, it being scarcely possible, in the absence of the above criterion, to decide where the primitive slate of the same district ends, and the intermediate begins, the characters of both being so much alike.

"These remarks are particularly applicable to the strata of the north of Devon, which we shall now proceed to consider. The two districts which they compose, have been already noticed among the most prominent features of the county; and one of them, (Exmoor,) is very strongly characterised by its elevation (1890 feet).

"In arranging the strata of these districts in the class of intermediate rocks, under the names of transition slate and grey wacke, we follow the authority of two most respectable geologists, (Mr. Leonard Horner, and the Rev. John Conybeare), both of whom have stated, with all the candour and precision of men of science, their reasons for adopting this distinction. With regard to Exmoor, 'The whole of the mountainous part of this district,' says Mr. Horner, 'is formed of a series of rocks differing very considerably in mineralogical characters, but which the repeated alternations of the several varieties, and the insensible gradations that are frequently to be traced of one into another, connect in one common formation. A great proportion of these have the structure of sand stones, the component parts varying in size from that of a mustard seed to such a degree of fineness, that the particles can with difficulty be discerned. Quartz and clay are the essential component parts of all the varieties, but in different proportions. The quartz in some instances prevails to the entire exclusion of any other ingredient, forming a granular quartz rock; it is more abundant in the aggregates of a coarse grain, clay being the chief ingredient in those of a close and fissile texture. They have all an internal stratified structure, which is less apparent in those of a coarse grain, but which gradually becomes more distinct as the texture becomes finer, and at last the rock graduates into a fine grained slate, divisible into laminæ as thin as paper, and having the smooth silky feel and shining surface of the clay-slate of a primary country. Alternations of the fine grained slaty varieties with those of the coarsest structure, in many successive strata, and without any regularity of position, are of constant occurrence, and frequently without any gradation from one structure to another.' 'Those of a pale reddish brown, and of a greenish grey colour,' he observes, 'all effervesce with acids; but none of the varieties of slate.' He adds, 'I did not discover a trace of any organic body in either variety; but in many places great beds of limestone full of madrepores are contained in the slate; the limestone and slate towards the external parts of the beds being interstratified.'

"Mr. Horner's observations were mostly confined to the eastern extremity of this range of hills; but a cursory examination of the country between Porlock and Ilfracombe enables him to add, 'In the road which is eastward of Linton, the coarser grained varieties are most frequent; but westward of that place, the slaty varieties predominate, very often resembling some kinds of iron-grey clay-slate, found in primary countries. Towards Ilfracombe this appearance becomes still more decided, and in a cabinet specimen it would be impossible to tell the difference. But beds of limestone with very decided indications of organic remains, contained in this slate, show that it is of secondary formation.' In another place Mr. Horner speaks of the curvatures which are so remarkable in the beds of the slate-rock between Minehead and Porlock, and in other situations he notices their angular contortions.

"In an account of the strata near Clovelly, which is likewise published in the Transactions of the Geological Society, Mr. Conybeare describes some more instances of this remarkable configuration, which he considers as characteristic of, though not confined to, the grey wacke formation. 'To that class,' says he, 'all the rocks of this neighbourhood may probably be referred. The principal varieties are those known throughout Devonshire by the appellation of dunstone and shillat; the former answers pretty accurately to the description usually given by mineralogists to that species of grey wacke, in which the fragments supposed to be cemented together by the intervention of a paste resembling the matter of clay-slate, are too small to be discerned, even by the aid of a considerable magnifier. The latter alternates with the former, and is evidently a finer grey wacke slate of the same nomenclature. Of these rocks, the coast near Clovelly presents the most magnificent and interesting sections which we met with in the course of our tour: both varieties sometimes alternating in distinct and well defined strata, sometimes appearing to graduate into each other, and the compact species assuming the external configuration of greenstone or serpentine. The strata inclining in every direction, and describing the most capricious and picturesque forms, both curved and angular, open an abundant field of instruction to the geologist; while they present difficulties, of which neither the theory of original deposition on an uneven surface, or a subsequent dislocation, appear to promise any plausible solution.' 'In neither variety of the rock could we discover any traces of organic remains, nor could we perceive any imbedded fragments that should indicate their having been formed from the debris of an earlier rock.'

"In the map which accompanies Vancouver's Agricultural Survey of Devonshire, are traced four or five parallel courses or stratified beds of limestone, which extend through a great part of the Exmoor district, in a direction nearly east and west; two of these from the vicinity of Ilfracombe, and two from Barnstaple bay towards South Molton. The existence of one of the former is merely inferred from what Mr. Vancouver had observed on the cliffs at one end of the course, and at a place southward of Lanacre bridge, in Somersetshire. He traces the other from the cliffs a little to the westward of the parish of Ilfracombe, eastwardly to BerryNarber lime-works, thence north of East Downe, and south of Kentisbury to the Challacombe lime-works, the specimens from all which places, he says, correspond in colour, which is a greyish brown: 'its texture is very close, and it is more glossy in its fracture than other limestone, and interspersed with minute veins of calcareous spar. It is not easy to distinguish it at sight from the hard slaty rock.'

"The next stratum of limestone, according to the same authority, composes a part of the promontory that projects northwardly in the parish of Fremington, and occasions that sudden bend in the river Taw, opposite to Heanton House. Mr. Vancouver supposes that this continues through the parishes of Braunton, Heanton-Punchardon, and Barnstaple, but no part of it to the south of the Taw. The fourth stratum or bed crops out, he observes, near St. Anne's chapel, in the parish of Heanton-Punchardon; passing thence eastwardly through the parish of Fremington, where it does not exceed five feet in thickness, and is inclosed in a stratum of hard bluish buildingstone, occasionally veined with quartz; thence through Bickington, Bishop's Tawton, Swimbridge, the northern part of Filleigh, and the southern part of Molland Bottreaux, West Anstey, and through the parishes of Dulverton and Shilgate, in Somersetshire. It consists of a stratum of transition limestone, of from ten to twenty feet in thickness, highly inclined and irregular in its dip, and imbedded in a stratum of hard bluish building-stone like the preceding, which it greatly resembles.

"Southward of this line, and near Instow, is another stratified body of limestone, from one to three feet in thickness, extending eastwardly through the northern parts of the parish of Harwood, thence in the same direction through the parishes of Chittlehampton, South Molton, the northern parts of Bishop's Nympton, by Ward's mill, through the parishes of East Anstey, and Brushford. This, which resembles the preceding, he says, is inclosed in a compact bed of thick slate or flagstone. These beds of limestone contain occasionally organic remains, but not in great abundance: near South Molton Mr. Buckland found fragments of encrinites and coralline bodies, and a perfect nautilus in the limestone quarries of Filleigh.

"All these limestone beds have a general agreement in their dark blue colour, and other characters, and all are of contemporary formation with the grey wacke slate rock, with which they alternate. The appellation of transition limestone may therefore, with strict propriety, be applied to them. Marshal speaks of the black limestone of the quarry at Filleigh, which belongs probably to Vancouver's fourth course, and again of the same black limestone near Dulverton. Several courses of limestone, of a similar nature, are pointed out by both these writers to the eastward of Exmoor, on the borders of the county. The very strong resemblance which all these stratified masses of limestone bear to those which are described by Vancouver on the north and south of Dartmoor, leads to a conclusion in favour of their common origin.

"Mr. Vancouver next notices a bed of culm, or anthracite, in the parish of Chittlehampton, varying from four to twelve inches in thickness, which follows the general direction of the strata of grey wacke in which it is imbedded; and veins of copper ore in the parishes of Swimbridge and North Molton. According to a report once made to us by Mr. Gullet, who, in the year 1790, re-opened the old mines at Combe Martin, there are a considerable number of lead veins in that part of Exmoor.

"Of the four districts into which a due respect to received opinions has induced us to divide the strata of this county, we have now described the two first, namely, the primitive and the transition series, between which it is extremely difficult to draw any precise and well-marked line of division. Nature, in fact, can scarcely be said to have justified their separation. The third and fourth, however, which we shall now proceed to consider, present a new aspect; being composed of strata which are in no respect connected with the preceding, and belong to a much later period in the history of stratification. They are usually designated by the names of the red sandstone formation and the green and district.

"The boundaries of the first of these are strongly marked by its peculiarity of colour, derived from the diffusion through its substance of a brick-red coloured oxyde of iron. Generally speaking, it occupies the least elevated portions of the county, and skirts along the base of the hilly district last described, extending north-eastward into Somersetshire, and stretching away to the westward, between the ridges of argillaceous slate, as far as Hatherleigh. Woodbury Hill, on the south-east of Exeter, and a ridge of hills that lies between Silverton and Crediton, afford the highest points to which it has risen. On the coast, it occupies great part of the cliffs from Sidmouth westward to Torbay. This formation rarely presents any imbedded exuviæ of the animal or vegetable kingdom, and its earliest conglomerate beds appear to have been formed under circumstances of very disturbed deposition. Some change too in their original posture seems to have taken place after their induration; for the cliffs abound in dislocations which have been attended with partial subsidences in all directions. The most important of its component beds are a stiff red clay, a red sandstone, and a red conglomerate, the fullest information respecting which is conveyed in the following report by Dr. Berger.

"The quarry of Heavitree is situated about a mile and half from Exeter, on the road to Honiton. It is worked to the extent of a quarter of a mile in length, and at present (1809) to the depth of about 90 or 100 feet, in a plane intersecting that of the strata. The rock worked in this quarry is a conglomerate evidently stratified; the strata are from 6 to 8 feet in thickness, and dip south-east at an angle of about 15°." As long as this rock preserves the character of a conglomerate, it is compact and tenacious, and, according to the report of the workmen employed in the quarry, it hardens more and more by exposure to the air. But as soon as it passes to the state of an arenaceous stone, it becomes tender and friable. It is very common to see blocks of it in this last state, and sometimes of a great size, included in the middle of the conglomerate. The cement of this rock is argillo-ferruginous, and by itself does not effervesce with acids; but it produces so brisk an effervescence from the calcareous particles that are intimately mixed with it, that it might be very easily mistaken for limestone. The substances which enter into the composition of this conglomerate are numerous; and it may first be remarked, that these are of very different sizes and forms, sometimes rolled and rounded, sometimes pointed with sharp angles, from very minute grains, to the size of several inches in diameter. There are found in it rhomboidal crystals of calcareous spar, and crystals of feltspar, most frequently of an opaque white, and decomposed; pieces of flint and grey wacke, yellowish limestone, rolled masses of a sort of porphyry, which somewhat resembles the antique, having a base of a reddish brown colour, not effervescing with acids, and containing numerous small and well-defined crystals of feltspar imbedded in it, pieces of a rock which is itself compounded, having the appearance of a porphyry, the base earthy, and including small grains of quartz, crystals of feltspar, and pieces of bluish carbonate of lime, together with a whitish tender steatite, in small angular fragments."

"Some farther information on the same subject may be collected from Vancouver's Agricultural Survey of Devon, the author of which very judiciously directed his attention to the strata, on the decomposition of which the quality of the soil so materially depends. We there find that the conglomerate described by Dr. Berger is confined to the western side of the red sandstone district, and that a gradual change, which is marked by the greater frequency of red sandy clay and red marle takes place on advancing eastward, until these strata come into contact with the westernmost borders of the green sand formation of Blackdown.

"The red marl, which forms the lowest portion of the cliffs from Sidmouth to the mouth of the Axe, abounds with veins and nodules and irregular beds of gypsum, which at Branscombe are sufficiently rich to be worked profitably for the manufacture of plaster.

"There is also another valuable and very singular mineral deposit, which, although principally connected with the red sandstone formation, occurs in some other parts of the county; we allude to those beds of manganese which have been found in the parish of Upton Pyne and elsewhere on the right bank of the Exe, and have been for many years past an object of mining speculation. According to Dr. Berger, 'The red argillaceous sandstone, at the spot where the mine is excavated, forms a bed several feet in thickness from the surface; below this is a conglomerate puddingstone, the same that is found in the parish of Heavitree, but quite disintegrated; then a reddish compact feltspar, in mass, containing a few laminæ of calcareous spar, and some crystals of quartz. This last rock forms the roof of the mine; the sides consist of a calcareo-manganesian amygdaloid. As to the floor of the mine, it is not known of what it is composed; the vein, which appears to be of considerable magnitude, not having been cut through. Its direction is east and west, dipping north, with an inclination of 3 feet in 6. Of the black oxyde of manganese, several varieties are met with, together with ferriferous carbonate of lime. This mine has been since abandoned, and others have been opened at Newton St. Cyres, four miles north-west of Exeter.' (fn. n4) The following particulars respecting this mineral deposit are extracted from the minutes of a traveller who visited this part of the country about 20 years before Dr. Berger. 'The mine of manganese,' says he, 'which I saw, is at Pound Living, a tenement in the parish of Upton Pyne, on the road to Thorverton and Tiverton. It is a floor, or bed, which dips in an angle of 50° or 60° to the north-west, where, at the depth of 26 feet from the surface, it terminates. From this point to that where it strikes out on the surface, the distance is upwards of 100 feet. Its extent southwest and north-east is nearly equal to this. A well is sunk 16 feet through the mass.'

"In the same part of the district where these beds occur, is found a very extensive mass of red amygdaloidal trap or wacke. There are traces of this rock in the vicinity of Crediton, and at Sandford, Chawley, and Silverton, but it is principally quarried at Pocombe-hill, in the parish of Alphington, and at Raddon, in the parish of Thorverton. The quarries at the last-mentioned spot are thus described by Dr. Berger. 'They are all in the same rock, viz., a calcareous amygdaloid, the nature of which however varies considerably in different places. In some, the nodules are small, and very closely united in clusters, forming nearly a homogeneous mass, with here and there nodules of a much larger size than the rest imbedded in it. In other places, the nodules are about the bigness of a pea, all of the same size, and consisting of rhomboidal sparry laminæ. There are other places where the base of the amygdaloid has the appearance of a sandstone, in which a small number of calcareous nodules are imbedded, externally coloured green by the steatite, and exactly resembling those which enter into the composition of some of the amygdaloids of Derbyshire, and of the Pentland hills near Edinburgh.'

"The same writer, speaking of the Pocombe quarry, says, 'The rock itself is an amygdaloid, the nodules of which are chiefly calcareous, small, and uniform; the base does not effervesce with acids.' This amygdaloid in some places occurs decidedly as a dyke cutting the red sandstone; in others it forms irregular beds and masses, overlying and intersecting the same sandstone, and throughout its whole extent, which is not considerable, it is attended with those anomalies and irregularities which are usually presented by rocks of the trap formation.

"The red clay or marl, which forms the uppermost of the three component members of the red sandstone formation, is covered along great part of its east frontier by strata belonging to the green sand formation, and constituting the extensive summits of Blackdown and the tabular ridges that project from it to the south coast between the Otter and Axe rivers. They also occupy a similar position in the range of hills that stretch from Axmouth along the east border of the valley of the Axe, to Lambert's Castle and Lewesdon Hill, in the north-west angle of Dorsetshire.

"On the west of the Exe, the summits of the Haldon hills are of precisely the same formation, and the coincidence in height between the latter and thesummit of Blackdown is very remarkable, the one being 817, the other 818 feet above high water mark; the same may be considered as the elevation of the summits that divide the valleys of the Axe and Otter, and of the range from Axmouth to Lambert's Castle: these strata extend also along the south coast from Sidmouth to Lyme in Dorsetshire, and the abrupt cliffs which they present afford admirable sections in which the detail and relations of their component parts may be distinctly ascertained. They consist of alternating beds of sand, sandstone, and chert, very variable in thickness, colour, and compactness.

"The generic term of green sand has been applied to this formation, from the dispersion of grains of green earth, resembling minute fragments of chlorite, throughout most of its component members. Mica also occurs in considerable quantity in many of its sandy beds; but the predominating feature is a base of siliceous sand, of a dirty yellow colour, inclining to green: the mica and green earth are usually wanting in the beds of chert. Occasionally the upper strata, when nearly in contact with the incumbent chalk, become mixed with calcareous earth in sufficient quantity to constitute an useful freestone, of which there are ancient and very extensive quarries at Branscomb, that were used for building many parts of the the interior of Exeter cathedral.

"Much siliceous sand and green earth are dispersed throughout this Branscomb freestone, but at Beer, a few miles further east, the sand and green earth entirely disappear, and the stratum becomes a simply calcareous freestone, in colour and substance resembling indurated chalk, rising in large blocks of any shape that may be required, and applicable to purposes of ordinary sculpture for domestic ornaments. It is also capable of resisting for many years the action of the weather, and though inferior in durability to that of Bath and Portland, is the best freestone afforded by the county of Devon, and has been recently used by Mr. Kendal for the delicate sculpture of the new altar-screen in Exeter cathedral.

"The stratum from which this freestone is obtained contains irregular beds and nodules of chert, and may be considered as forming a link between green sand and the incumbent chalk, rather than as being strictly a member of the green sand formation. It is identical with the famous freestone of Toternhoe, near Dunstaple, in Bedfordshire. The only other valuable products afforded by this formation are the whetstones extracted from a variety of micaceous sandstone beds, that occur along the west escarpment of the summits of Blackdown, as well as the east side of Haldon; and the beds of chert, that are nearly co-extensive with the whole green sand formation, and which being naturally split into angular fragments of the size of gravel, afford an excellent material for making roads. The fissures and cavities in this chert are often filled or lined with crystals of quartz, or stalactitic laminæ of beautiful blue chalcedony, sometimes composing small agates; and near Sidmouth, the chert passes occasionally into the state of red and green jasper, approaching to bloodstone. The cavities in which the chalcedony is lodged, have in most cases been formed by the decay of organic bodies of the sponge and alcyonium tribe, that were entangled in the chert at the moment of its deposition.

"All the component strata of this formation abound in marine organic remains, the form of which is accurately retained, whilst the calcareous matter of which they were originally composed has been in most instances removed, and silex substituted in its place. In the whetstone-pits of Blackdown, where this process has been carried on with the greatest degree of delicacy, the embedded shells are converted into transparent chalcedony, and are exquisitely beautiful: and on the summit of Haldon, similar shells are converted into the state of chalcedony and blood-red jasper: fragments of wood, also, that have been lodged along with the shells in this formation have lost their carbonaceous matter, and are completely converted into silex. Many of them appear to have been drifted during a sufficient length of time for marine animals to have perforated their substance, as they abound in small tubular holes and cavities, that seem to have been drilled by animals allied to the pholas and teredo, which cavities are usually lined, or filled, with transparent blue chalcedony, and minute crystals of quartz.

"This green sand formation constitutes the largest portion of the hills in the south-east of Devon; and its surface is generally marked by extensive ranges of commons, being by no means favourable to agriculture. Meantime, the valleys intermediate between these hills, are extremely fertile, as they are composed principally of the red marl. The vales of Honiton and Colyton, afford good examples of the relative fertility of the valleys and hills, inclosing them in this portion of country, derived from the causes just specified. The green sand formation reposes on red marl along the whole of its west and north-west frontier; but along its east and northeast border, it is divided from it by the interposition of the lias formation, in very considerable thickness, from the cliffs on the east of Exmouth, along the east side of the valley of the Axe to Axminster; and thence, crossing by Yartcombe to Pitminster, on the borders of the vale of Taunton. It occupies the middle region of the hills between the green sand of the summits, and red marl that forms the base of the valleys. Its general character is a thick deposit of stratified blue clay, containing three beds of a marly limestone, disposed in regular slabs, which rarely exceed a foot in thickness; these are usually of a blue colour, but at Uplyme, there occur, with the blue, extensive beds of white lias.

"Both of these are used for the purposes of paving and building stone, but they are not capable of resisting long the action of the weather. The blue lias affords a useful lime for setting under water, and for agriculture. This formation is full of organic marine remains, and also abounds in fossil wood, that is usually impregnated with much carbonate of lime, and never siliceous, as happens in that which lies in the green sand.

"As the lias occurs but scantily, so the oolite formation is totally wanting in the county of Devon: were it present, its place in the series would have been between the lias and green sand, as in the adjoining counties of Dorset and Somerset.

"The chalk formation occurs in this county only in a few small insulated patches, along the east border of Blackdown; and in a district extending only a few miles inland from the coast between Sidmouth and Lyme Regis. Along this tract it is obscurely developed in the interior, being much covered with surface gravel; but it makes a conspicuous figure along the shore, crowning great part of the cliffs along the line just mentioned, and sometimes, as at Beer Head, forming the entire mass of them. The chalk, however, becomes gradually thinner in its progress westward, till it expires at Salcombe, on the east of Sidmouth.

"All these may be considered as insulated or outlying masses, originally, perhaps, connected with the chalk of Dorsetshire, and identical with it in substance, and the character of its organic remains.

"One formation only, now remains to be described, more recent than any that has yet been mentioned, and which, from its striking peculiarities, has long excited public attention; namely, the strata of pipe-clay, and imperfect coal, or lignite, at Bovey Heathfield. The position of these, and all the characteristic circumstances of their formation, are thus described by Mr. Vancouver and Dr. Maton. 'After following the western branch of the Bovey river,' says Mr. Vancouver, 'from the commons of Widdecombe on the moor, we descend into a plain, bounded on the north by a range of craggy hills, in the parish of Bovey Tracey; and westwardly, by the high lands of Ilsington and Heytor rocks. In this plain or valley, are found rising to the surface, and with a gentle dip or inclination to the southward, distinct strata of a fossil substance, called Bovey coal. This lies in several parallel seams, at the distance of six or eight feet from each other, and to the depth of sixty feet, which is here considered above the level of low water line at Teignmouth.

" 'The Bovey coal exhibits a series of gradations from the most perfect ligneous texture, to a substance nearly approaching the character of pit coal, and which by exposure to air, breaks into thin laminæ, assuming the appearance of the grey, or common schistus rock of the country; but in which are indistinctly to be traced the original fibrous vegetable of which it was composed, and which is generally the root and trunk of the pinus sylvestris, or Scotch fir. Among the clay, but adhering to the coal, are found lumps of a bright yellow resinous earth, (ascertained to be retinasphaltum, by Mr. Hatchet,) extremely light, and so saturated with petroleum as to burn like sealing wax; and, when not carried too far, to produce an agreeable aromatic vapour. Large pieces of the board and root coal have been taken up at different depths in the Stover plantations, and at the distance of about two miles from the present coal-pits. This substance is also found diffused, in very small pieces, through all the beds of potters' clay, in the parishes of Teigngrace, and King's Teignton.' "

"In the above account of the natural history of this curious spot, by Mr. Vancouver, our readers will perceive an omission of some importance, which is very ably supplied by Dr. Maton. 'Leaving the Ashburton road to the right,' says this writer, 'we proceeded through Bovey Heathfield, in order to view some curious coal-pits. They are more than a mile however from the village, and about ten miles from the sea, in the midst of an open heath. We were surprised to find the coal in alternate strata with a whitish clay, that constitutes the substance of the adjacent soil. The upper stratum of coal is but a few feet below the surface of the ground, and the others about the same distance from each other, being from four to sixteen feet in thickness. The lowermost rests on clay, which is followed by a bed of sand, seventeen feet deep; then the clay appears again without any coal. These pits, which have been worked several years for the supply of a neighbouring pottery, are about eighty feet in depth; the strata seeming to continue in an eastern direction towards Bovey, and underlying to the south, about twenty inches in a fathom. As to the coal, it retains its vegetable structure, and has exactly the appearance of charred wood, being of a black or blackish brown colour, extremely light and friable, separable into irregular laminæ, and strongly impregnated with bitumen; its appearance being wholly different from that of the decayed timber found in the adjoining bogs.'

"The whole of this low plain may be considered as an inland basin; and it appears from what is here said of the coal-beds at Bovey Heathfield, and the account here subjoined by Vancouver, of the strata to the southward of these, that a great portion of this basin has been filled by the same deposit. 'The lower grounds bordering on the river Teign afford a valuable tract of rich marshes, among which, on their upper and western sides, and in the parishes of Teigngrace and King's Teignton, is found a cold, thin-stapled, grey loam, on very large bodies of potters' clay. These hold a general direction from the church of King's Teignton, towards that of Bovey Tracey. The breadth of these beds varies from a quarter to half a mile; the clay is seldom found of a merchantable quality nearer than from twenty-five to thirty feet below the surface; it is often separated by veins of inferior woodland clay; but the different beds of potters' clay are always found to hold the same positions with respect to each other, viz. southwardly, the pipe-clay; the light brown sort in the middle; and northwardly, the crackling clay. The criterion of excellence, is to find in this clay certain small specks or particles of Bovey coal.'

"In the more elevated part of this basin, the beds of clay alternate, and are finally covered with granite gravel; and here, especially in those situations which are contiguous to the moor, has been found a great deal of alluvial tinstone. This portion of the stratification is undoubtedly derived from the high lands of Dartmoor, and both its disintegration, as well as its removal from the parent rock, are indications of a revolution, to which the surface of the globe owes much of its present aspect.

"We are led to conclusions no less important, with respect to the changes which have taken place in our climate, by a discovery lately made in the quarries of Oreston, near Plymouth. These quarries are worked in a limestone rock of the transition class, which as usual abounds in caverns. In one of these, the length of which was forty-five feet, the width fifteen, and the depth twelve, were found imbedded in loose clay, fossil bones and teeth belonging to a species of rhinoceros, being the remains of three distinct individuals. All of these were in the most perfect state of preservation, which may be attributed to the matter in which they were enveloped, and perhaps to the dryness of their situation. The deposition of these bones here, at the depth of seventy feet below the surface of the rock, and one hundred and sixty feet in one direction, and sixty in another, from the original edge of the cliff, by the side of Catwater, has naturally excited much curiosity, and given rise to many erroneous opinions. As the whole has now disappeared, in consequence of the progress made by the workmen in the excavation of the quarry, and even before all the circumstances of the discovery could be duly investigated, no direct proof can be brought of the original communication between the surface of the rock and this deposit; but the inference, that such a communication once existed, may be drawn from numerous examples of similar phenomena in this and other countries; where bones of the same species of rhinoceros, in precisely the same state of preservation, (being not petrified,) have been found in caverns of limestone rocks, of various ages, having no other connection with the rocks themselves than that arising from the accidental lodgment of the bones in their cavities, at a period long subsequent to their original formation." (fn. n5)

Surface and Scenery. — This county is perhaps more uniformly hilly than any other of the same or nearly the same extent in England. The proportion of level ground indeed is very small: the little vale of the Culme perhaps exhibits a more level surface than is to be found in any other part of the county within the same space.

The forest of Dartmoor is the highest ground in Devonshire; its mean height being estimated at 1782 feet; the highest point is supposed to be 2090 feet. The highest point of Exmoor, on the borders of Somersetshire, is 1890 feet. Sholsbury Castle, in the parish of High Bray, is 1500 feet; Chapman's Barrow, between Challacombe and Parracombe, 1200 feet; Hoardown gate, three miles from Ilfracombe, on the Barnstaple road, 1000 feet; Blackdown near Tavistock, 1160 feet; Butterton Hill, near Ivybridge, 1200 feet; Great Haldon and Blackdown only 800 feet.

The general character of a great proportion of the county is a continued succession of hills of the same, or nearly the same height. This circumstance, and the lofty banks and hedges by which they are flanked in, render most of the Devonshire high roads very tedious and unpleasant to the traveller. From the continued succession of such hills as have been described, the views must of necessity be bounded in general by the top of the adjoining hill, perhaps a mile distant; and should any more interesting view occasionally occur, it is totally obstructed by the hedges. This has long been the character of the Devon roads. Westcote observed, near 200 years ago, that, numerous as they were, a man might travel through the county without seeing a flock of sheep, except on Dartmoor, or such open districts.

The county nevertheless abounds with many most beautiful distant views, and exhibits in numerous parts of it very picturesque scenery. Among very many fine distant views may be particularized those from Haldon, looking over the rich vale of the Exe with its estuary; from Blackdown, over the vale of the Culme; from Pinhoe and other heights, overlooking Exeter, &c. &c.; from the heights of Dartmoor, both on the side towards Plymouth, and from High Tor rock, overlooking the vale of the Teign to Teignmouth; the view from Brent-Tor church-yard; from the heights above Torquay; from Mamhead; the singularly picturesque view from Morwell rock, looking over the Tamar into Cornwall; the view from the higher grounds of Tawstock park, overlooking Barnstaple and the bay; and the view from Portlemouth church, overlooking the estuary of the Aven with Kingsbridge, Salcombe, Malborough, South Pool, &c.

The road from Honiton to Exeter passes through a rich vale, and exhibits pleasing views. The views about Powderham, Exmouth, Teignmouth, &c., have been much admired, and at high water are particularly rich and beautiful; but picturesque scenery is to be sought for on the banks of some of the principal rivers near their sources. The scenery of the road from Bampton to Tiverton, by the side of the Exe, is very rich. The upper parts of the East Teign and of the Dart, particularly about Holne Chase and bridge are highly picturesque; and there is much beautiful scenery on the wooded banks of the Tamar, the Tavy, the Taw, the Plym, (particularly about Bickley mill,) the Erme, the Creedy, the Mole, and other rivers. The ride from Moreton Hampstead to Lustleigh is through a beautiful wooded valley; and there is fine scenery in Whiddon park and elsewhere in that neighbourhood.

Figure 4:

View of Lymouth

The scenery of the little river Lyn, which falls into the sea at Lymouth, is well known and much admired. The valley of stones near Linton has been somewhat over-rated by those who have not seen similar scenery in the north-west of Yorkshire, and other parts of the kingdom. The rocks which skirt this valley of stones towards the sea, as seen from the water, are magnificent.

Figure 2:

Black Church Rocks near Clovelly

Figure 3:

North view of Clovelly

The scenery of the romantic village of Clovelly, Sir J. Hamlyn Williams's park, and of the new drive from the Bideford road called the Hoby, may be ranked among the most singularly beautiful in the county. The various and beautiful scenery about Torquay has also been highly and justly celebrated. The views from Mount Edgecumbe park and other commanding situations about Plymouth are fine and interesting. The scenery of Lydford bridge, and the waterfall on the little river there, should not be omitted, nor the village of Milton, in the parish of Buckland Monachorum, situated in a deep and narrow ravine, which is singularly picturesque, and has much attracted the notice of artists.


The principal rivers of Devonshire are the Axe, the Otter, the Exe, the Teign, the Dart, the Aven, the Erme, the Yealme, the Plym, the Tamar, the Tavy, the Torridge, and the Taw.

The Axe rises in Dorsetshire: near Ford Abbey it becomes for a while a boundary between that county and Devon; thence it runs to Axminster, having received two brooks from the Dorsetshire parish of Hawkchurch. From Axminster it passes near Kilmington, between Colyton and Musbury, and falls into the sea between Seaton and Axmouth: the smaller rivers Yarty and Coly fall into the Axe; the former rises on the borders of Dorsetshire, about two miles north of Sheffhayne, in Membury, and passing near Yarcombe and Stockland, between Membury and Dalwood, falls into the Axe near Kilmington: the Coly rises about two miles north of Cotleigh, in this county, passes near Cotleigh and Widworthy, Colyton, and Colyford, falling into the Axe about half a mile beyond the last-mentioned place; the course of the Axe from Ford Abbey is about 15 miles. The principal bridges over this river are on the roads to Honiton and Colyton, and Axe bridge, on the road from Sidmouth to Lyme.

The Otter rises in Somersetshire, near Otterford, to which, as well as several of the places on its banks, it gives name; thence to Up Ottery near Monkton, between Comb Ralegh and Honiton, to Feniton bridge, Ottery St. Mary, between Fen Ottery and Harpford, to Newton Poppleford, thence near Colyton Ralegh and Bicton, to Otterton, about two miles beyond which it falls into the sea at Ottermouth, its course in this county being about 25 miles. The principal bridges over this river are at UpOttery, Feniton bridge, on the road from Honiton to Exeter, and the bridges at Newton Poppleford and Otterton.

The small river Sid rises near Sidbury, and passing through Sidford, falls into the sea near Sidmouth.

The Exe rises on Exmoor, in Somersetshire, about three miles to the north-west of Exe bridge, at which it enters this county, whence passing near Hightleigh, Oakford, and Washfield, it reaches Tiverton: thence it passes near Bickleigh, between Thorverton and Silverton, near Netherex and Brampford Speke, to Exeter, to which it gives name: thence to Topsham, and between Powderham and Lympstone to Exmouth, where it falls into the sea. From Topsham to Exmouth the river is nearly a mile wide on an average, and navigable. The principal of the smaller rivers which fall into the Exe are, the Batham, the Loman, the Creedy, the Clist, the Culme, and the Kenn. The Batham, rising near Clayhanger, passes by Bampton, to which it seems to give name, and falls into the Exe about a mile from that town. The Loman, rising in Somersetshire, passes by Up Lowman and Craze Lowman, falling into the Exe at Tiverton. The Creedy, which rises near Cruwys Morchard, passes near Woolfardisworthy, between Sandford and Upton Helions, near Crediton, to which it gives name; near Newton St. Cyres, and falls into the Exe not far from Cowley bridge. The Clist rises near Clist Hydon, and passing near Clist St. Lawrence, Broad Clist, Honiton Clist, St. Mary's Clist, and St. George's Clist, to all of which it gives name, falls into the Exe near Topsham. The Culme, rising in Somersetshire, passes Church Staunton and Hemiock, through Culmstock and Uffculme, near Collumpton, Columbjohn, and Stoke Canon, and falls into the Exe near Cowley bridge. The Kenn rises near Dunchidiock, and runs through Kenford near Kenn, and falls into the Exe between Kenton and Powderham. The little river Yeo rises about two miles from Colebrooke, near which village it runs, and passing near the bartons of Yeoford and Yeoton, falls into the Creedy not far from Crediton. The maps describe a small river called the Dart as rising near Cruwys Morchard, and falling into the Exe near Bickleigh. The whole course of the Exe is supposed to be about 70 miles. The principal bridges over the Exe are that at Tiverton, Bickleigh bridge, a bridge on the road from Crediton to Collumpton, Cowley bridge, and Exebridge at Exeter.

The Dart rises in Dartmoor forest, near Cranmere; near Two-bridges it is joined by another stream, which rises between two and three miles to the north-west, called the West Dart; having run to the extent of Dartmoor, it passes through Holne park, near Buckfastleigh, near Staverton, between Dartington and Little Hempston, to Totnes; thence near Ashprington, Cornworthy, Stoke Gabriel, Dittisham, and to Dartmouth; about a mile beyond which it falls into the sea, its course having been nearly 40 miles. The principal bridges over the Dart are at Holne, Buckfastleigh, and Totnes.

The Harbern, rising on the edge of Dartmoor, runs near Harberton, to which it gives name, through Harberton-ford, and falls into the Dart about a mile from Ashprington.

The Teign rises on the borders of Dartmoor with two heads, meeting near Holy Street, thence to Rushford, near Chagford, through or near Whiddon park and Moreton woods, near Dunsford, Christow, Hennock, Teigngrace, and King's Teignton; hereabouts it becomes a wide estuary, and falls into the sea between Shaldon and Teignmouth, its course having been about 30 miles. The principal bridge over the Teign is that on the road from Exeter to Newton Abbot. The West Teign, or Bovey river, rises also on the borders of Dartmoor, passes near North Bovey and Bovey Tracey, and falls into the East Teign not far from Teigngrace. Holwell brook, the small river Hayne, and Radford brook, all rising in or near Dartmoor, fall into the Bovey, as does the small river Wrey, which rises near Moreton Hampstead.

The river Loman, rising near Ilsington, runs near Bickington, and dividing Newton Bushell and Newton Abbot, falls into the Teign about half a mile from those towns.

The Aven, which rises in Dartmoor, passes near Brent, between Diptford and North Huish; between Loddiswell and Woodleigh, near Aveton Giffard and Bigbury, falling into the sea at Aven-mouth. The principal bridges over this river are Brent bridge, on the Ashburton road, and Bickham bridge on the road from Modbury to Totnes.

The Erme which rises also in Dartmoor, passes by Harford, Ivybridge, Ermington, near Holbeton, and falls into the sea at Erm-mouth, its course being about 13 miles. Ivybridge, on the great western road, is the principal bridge over this river; there is a bridge over it also on the road from Modbury to Plymouth.

The Yealme rises also on Dartmoor, passing near Cornwood, crossing the Plymouth road at Lee mill, to Yealmton, passing thence near Newton Ferrers, it falls into the sea at Yealme-mouth. There are bridges over the Yealme on the great Plymouth road, and on the road from Modbury to Plymouth. The little river Silver, rising about half a mile N. of the Plymouth road, falls into the Yealme near Kitley.

The Plym, rising on Dartmoor, passes near Meavy; between Bickleigh and Shaugh, at about a mile distance from Plympton, which takes its name from it, to Saltram; near this place it forms a wide estuary, which becomes narrower at Oreston, and it falls into the sea at Plymouth. There is a bridge over the Plym on the road from Plympton to Plymouth. The small river Meavy rising on Dartmoor, passes near Shipstor, and falls into the Plym, in the parish of Meavy. The small river Torey, which rises in the northern extremity of Plympton parish, runs through Newnham park and the town of Plympton, falling into the Plym near New bridge.

The Tamar rises in the parish of Morwinstow, near the northern extremity of Cornwall; it soon becomes the boundary between Cornwall and Devonshire, and so continues during nearly the whole of its course, which is about forty miles. In the parish of Werrington, it has Devonshire on both sides, and the village of Werrington on its western side. The Werrington river, which rises near Tremaine, runs through Werrington park, and falls into the Tamar near the upper New bridge. On the east side of the Tamar, near the river, are the Devonshire parishes of Pancrasweek, Bridgerule, (where is a bridge,) Tetcot, Luffincot, St. Giles on the heath, Lifton, Bradstone, Dunterton, Milton Abbot, Sydenham, Beer Ferrers, Tamerton-Foliot, and St. Budeaux. It becomes a wide estuary near Beer Alston, and further on, below Saltash, which is on the Cornish side, forms the harbour of Hamoaze, falling into Causand bay, between Mount Edgecumbe and Stonehouse. The principal bridges over the Tamar are Bridgerule, Tamerton, New bridge, Polston bridge, Graiston bridge, Horse bridge, and New bridge in the parish of Calstock.

The rivers which fall into the Tamar, as described in the maps, are the Wick, the Derle, the Deer, the Cary, the Claw, the Lyd, and the Tavy.

The Wick rises near Pancrasweek, and runs near Pyworthy, falling into the Tamar nearly opposite North Tamerton. The Derle rising near Pyworthy, and the Deer near Holsworthy, join their streams, and fall into the Tamar about a mile and a half more to the south, and half a mile further the Claw, which rises near Clawton, and runs near Tetcot. The Cary rises near Ashwater, passes between the village of Virginstow and the barton of Cary, and falls into the Tamar between the upper New bridge and Polston bridge. The Lyd, which rises on Dartmoor, passes by Lidford, where it forms a beautiful cataract; thence near Coryton, Marystowe, and Lifton, falling into the Tamar, nearly two miles south of Polston bridge. The small river Tinhay falls into the Lyd near Lifton. The Tavy, which rises on Dartmoor, near Bagtor, passes between Peter and Mary Tavy, to Tavistock, giving its name to those places; thence, near Whitechurch and Buckland Monachorum, between Beer Ferrers and Tamerton Foliot, it falls into the Tamar opposite Landulph. The little river Stour rises in Dartmoor, and running near Sampford Spiney, Walkhampton and Buckland Monachorum, falls into the Tavy.

The river Torridge rises from nearly the same spot as the Tamar, in the parish of Morwinstow, in Cornwall, and runs through the north-west part of the county, in a very circuitous course, for about fifty miles, till it falls into the sea near Appledore. It runs between East and West Putford; between Bulkworthy and Abbots Bickington; near Newton Petrock; between Shebbear and Bradford; near Black Torrington and Shipwash; between Meeth and Iddesleigh; and between Dowland, Dolton and Beaford, on the eastern side; and Huish and Little Torrington on the west, to Great Torrington; thence leaving Frithelstock and Monckleigh on the west, to Weare Giffard; thence near Lancras to Bideford; from Bideford, being there a wide estuary, between Northam and Westleigh; between Appledore and Instow; near which it unites with the estuary of the Taw, and both together, about two miles from thence, fall into Barnstaple bay. The principal bridges over the Torridge are at Tadiport near Torrington, and at Bideford.

The little river Waldron, which rises near Bradworthy, runs near Sutcombe and Milton Damarell, and falls into the Torridge near Bradford. The Okement rises in two streams, called the East and West Okement, which, falling down from Dartmoor, surround Oakhampton park, and unite near the town of that name; running thence between Jacobstow and Exbourn, and near Monk Oakhampton, it falls into the Torridge nearly opposite Meeth.

The river Taw rises on Dartmoor, near Cranmere, passes near Belston, crosses the Oakhampton road between Sticklepath and South Zeal chapels; runs near South Tawton, North Tawton, Bundleigh, Brushford, Nymet Rowland, Eggesford, about a mile and a half to the west of Chawleigh and Chulmleigh; leaving High Bickington and Atherington about the same distance to the west, and Warkleigh and Chittlehampton to the east; it runs between Tawstock and Bishop's Tawton to Barnstaple; thence in a broad estuary, having Pilton, Ashford, and Heanton Punchardon, on the north, and Fremington on the south, to Instow, where it joins the estuary of the Torridge, as before mentioned. The course of the Taw to Barnstaple appears to be about forty miles; and from Barnstaple to the mouth of the bay, eight miles. The principal bridges over the Taw are Umberleigh, New bridge, about a mile from Bishop's Tawton, and Barnstaple bridge.

The Little Dart river, rising near Rackenford, receives another smaller stream, called the Sturcombe, and passing near Witheridge, East and West Worlington, Cheldon, and Chulmleigh, falls into the Taw about a mile and a half from the last-mentioned place. The river Bray, which rises a little to the south of Parracombe, runs near Challacombe, between Charles and Highbray, near East Buckland, through Lord Fortescue's grounds at Castlehill, under Filleigh bridge, near Satterleigh, and Newplace, in King's Nympton, falling into the Taw near Newnham Bridge, in Burrington.

The Mole rises about two miles north of North Molton, runs by that place and South Molton, and near George Nympton, joining the Bray nearly opposite to Satterleigh. Several nameless streams, rising to the south of Exmoor, join the Mole. A small stream called the Tiddy water joins the Taw in the parish of Burrington. Another nameless stream, passing through Swimbridge, joins it near Bishop's Tawton. The river Yeo rises in two streams to the south-west of Parracombe: one of these runs near Arlington and Loxhore, and the other near Bratton Fleming; having united, the Yeo runs by Yeotown, near Goodleigh, and between Pilton and Barnstaple, near which it falls into the estuary of the Taw. There is a bridge over the Yeo between Pilton and Barnstaple.

The little river Lyn rises on Exmoor, and after a course of about ten miles, having passed near Brendon, falls into the sea at Lymouth, near Linton, to both which it gives name. Near the sea, it has a fall of about fourteen feet, forming at times a fine cascade.

Navigable Rivers and Creeks; and Canals.

The river Exe is navigable for large vessels up to Topsham, whence there is a canal for sloops and barges to Exeter. (fn. n6) The Teign is navigable to Newton Bushell, between which and King's Teignton it is joined by the Teigngrace Canal. The Dart is navigable from Dartmouth to Totnes.

A creek runs from the Mewstone, near Bolthead, to Kingsbridge, about five miles navigable for barges and small sloops; and this creek having several ramifications, lime, sand, and other manure, are conveniently imported to many of the neighbouring parishes, and the produce of the soil exported.

The Yealm is navigable for sloops and small brigs to Kitley quay, and for barges and small boats half a mile higher. The Tamar is navigable to New Quay, about 24 miles from Plymouth, for vessels of about 130 or 140 tons: vessels of fourteen feet draught go up to Morwell-ham quay, six miles from Plymouth. The Plym is navigable at Catwater, near its mouth, for men of war. Small vessels of about 40 or 50 tons go up to Crabtree.

The Torridge becomes navigable for boats at Weare Giffard, and for ships of larger burden at Bideford. The Taw is not navigable above Newbridge; from thence to Barnstaple it is navigated by boats and barges, laden with limestone: even below Barnstaple, it is not now navigable for ships of great burden, and is usually navigated only by small vessels of not more than 80 tons: vessels of 140 tons sometimes come up to Barnstaple, the distance from which place to the Channel is about eight miles.

In the year 1792, an act of parliament passed for making a navigable canal from Bovey Tracey to the river Teign at Newton Abbot, (five miles and a half,) with a collateral cut to Chudleigh, (the same distance,) for the importation of coals, sea-sand, and lime, and the exportation of pipe and potters' clay, and Bovey coal. This canal was made at the sole expence of James Templer, Esq., and was completed (with the exception of the collateral cuts) in or about the year 1794. It is generally called the Stover, or Teigngrace canal.

Little progress has been made in the Grand Western Canal, for which an act passed in the year 1796: it was to have gone from Taunton to Topsham, through a considerable part of Devon; and with collateral cuts to Tiverton and Collumpton. The only part of this canal which has been finished is the Tiverton cut from that town to Burlescombe, passing through Sampford Peverell; the distance by the canal being about twelve miles. The chief use of this cut is the conveyance of limestone from the rocks of Canonleigh, &c.

In the year 1803, an act of parliament passed for making a canal from Morwell-ham quay to Tavistock, for the importation of coals, lime, &c.; the conveyance of ores from the mines on Morwell-ham down, &c.; with a branch of two miles to the slate-quarries at Millhill. In making this canal, a tunnel nearly two miles in length was cut through the hills, which in some places are between four and five hundred feet above the level of the tunnel. The canal was opened June 24. 1817. Goods are conveyed from the Tamar navigable river into this canal, being raised the height of two hundred and forty feet by an inclined plane. The length of the canal from the Tamar to Tavistock is about five miles.

In the year 1819, an act of parliament passed for making a canal from Bude to Thornbury, &c. in Devon, for the conveyance of sea-sand, limestone, and other goods, to pass through the parishes of Bridgerule, Pancrasweek, Sutcombe, Bradworthy, Pyworthy, Holsworthy, Thornbury, Cookbury, Milton Damarell, and Bradford, with a collateral cut from the Red Post, in the parish of Launcells, (Cornwall,) to Druxton bridge, in the parish of Werrington, passing through several Cornish parishes; and those of Werrington, North Petherwin, and St. Giles on the Heath, in Devon. In pursuance of this act, a breakwater has been constructed, at a considerable expence, at Bude, which promises to be a complete protection, and to withstand all assaults. A reservoir also, covering an area of seventy acres, has been constructed, and the canal completed to Hele bridge. It has not however yet entered Devonshire, but it is expected that it will be completed as far as Holsworthy on the one branch, and as far as Tamerton bridge on the other, within twelve months. Steam-engines have been constructed on the inclined planes.


The great road from London to Exeter and Plymouth enters Devon between the nine and ten milestone from Bridport, and reaches Axminster twelve miles from the last-mentioned town; thence it passes through Kilmington and the hamlet of Wilmington, leaving Widworthy and Offwell on the left, to Honiton (eight miles and a half). From Honiton it passes between Feniton and Gittisham, between Whimple and Rockbeare to Honiton Clist; and leaving Sowton to the left, through Heavitree to Exeter (16 miles). From Exeter it proceeds through Alphington and Shillingford to Chudleigh (nine miles); thence through Bickington to Ashburton (nine miles). From Ashburton it passes through Buckfastleigh, Dean Prior, and South Brent, to Ivybridge (12 miles and a half); thence through Plympton to Plymouth (about 12 miles); its whole course through the county having been about 77 miles.

Another road from Exeter to Plymouth branches off at Alphington, and goes through Kenneford, over Haldon to Newton Abbot (15 miles); thence leaving Ipplepen and Little Hempston on the right, and Abbot's Carswell on the left, to Totnes (eight miles); from thence leaving Rattery on the right, and Harberton, Diptford, and North Huish on the left, to Ivybridge and Plymouth (23 miles).

From Alphington a turnpike-road branches off through Exminster to Star-cross (eight miles); from Star-cross to Dawlish (four miles); and from thence by the sea-side to Teignmouth (three miles). There is another road from Exeter to Teignmouth, over Haldon, and through Ashcombe (15 miles).

From Newton Abbot there is a turnpike-road through Abbot's Carswell, to Tor Mohun and Torquay, continued through Berry Pomeroy to Totnes, with branches to Paignton, Brixham, and King's Weare.

From Ashburton there is a turnpike road to Totnes, passing through Staverton and Dartington (eight miles). The road from Ashburton to Tavistock (20 miles) leaves Holne on the left, and Buckland and Widdecombe on the right, coming into the turnpike-road from Exeter to Tavistock, at Two-bridges, eight miles from Tavistock.

From Totnes there is a turnpike-road through Harberton-ford and near Moreleigh to Kingsbridge (12 miles); another from Totnes to Dartmouth, leaving Ashprington, Cornworthy, and Dittisham on the left, and going through Townstall (ten miles). The carriage-road from Dartmouth to Kingsbridge is about 12 miles. From Dartmouth to Modbury is a turnpike-road, leaving Holwell on the right, and passing through Moreleigh (12 miles); from thence through Yealmton, Brixham, and Plympton, to Plymouth (14 miles); but there is now a nearer road, passing over the ferry at Oreston, in a very convenient boat called a flying bridge.

The great road from London to Falmouth and the Land's End branches off at Exeter, leaves Whitstone, Tedburne St. Mary, and Cheriton Bishops on the right, and Drew's Teignton on the left, passes through Crockernwell, where is a posting house (11 miles from Exeter); thence leaving South Tawton on the right, it passes through South Zeal and Sticklepath to Oakhampton (11 miles); thence through Bridestowe, leaving Thrushelton and Stowford on the right, and Lew Trenchard on the left, it passes through Lifton, and quits the county at Polston bridge, about two miles beyond Lifton, and 40 from Exeter.

Another road from Exeter to the Land's End leaves Holcombe Burnell and Dunsford a little to the left, passing to Moreton Hampstead (12 miles); thence over Dartmoor, leaving Sampford Spiney and Whitechurch on the left, to Tavistock (20 miles); about three miles beyond which it enters Cornwall, passing over Newbridge.

The turnpike-road from Tavistock to Plymouth Dock is about 14 miles, leaving Whitechurch on the left, and Buckland Monachorum, Tamerton Foliot, &c., on the right. There is a turnpike-road from Plymouth Dock to Saltash-ferry. The turnpike-road from Tavistock to Ivybridge passes through Sampford Spiney, Walkhampton, and Meavy, leaving Shaugh and Cornwood on the right. About eight miles from Tavistock a road branches off to Two-bridges on Dartmoor, on the road from Moreton Hampstead to Tavistock.

The turnpike-road from Tavistock to Launceston leaves Lamerton on the right, passes through Milton Abbot, and leaving Dunterton on the left, passes through Bradstone to Graiston bridge.

There is a turnpike road from Exeter to Topsham, continued to Exmouth (nine miles), passing near St. George's Clist and Woodbury, and through Lympstone. From Exmouth a turnpike road continues, passing through Withecombe Ralegh and Littleham, near East Budleigh, through Otterton to Sidmouth; thence through Salcombe Regis and Colyford, near Comb Pyne, towards Lyme Regis, which is just within the limits of Dorsetshire. Another road from Exeter to Sidmouth passes through Heavitree, between Sowton and Clist St. Mary, through Newton Poppleford, leaving Aylesbeare, Fen Ottery, and Harpford, on the left, and Colyton Ralegh on the right (about 15 miles). A road branching off out of the great road from Honiton to Exeter, at a place called Fairmile, goes to Ottery St. Mary, and thence to the road before described as leading from Sidmouth to Lyme.

The great road from Bath and Bristol to Exeter enters Devonshire near the Red Ball on Maiden Down, passes through the hamlet of South Appledore and the village of Willand, to Collumpton; thence through Bradninch to Broad Clist, leaving Poltimore and Pinhoe on the right, to Exeter. The old road passed between Huxham and Poltimore.

Another road from Bath enters Devonshire about a mile from Church Staunton, and, leaving that village on the right, passes through Churchenford, Up Ottery, and Roridge, leaving Luppit and Monkton on the left, and Comb Ralegh on the right, to Honiton, and thence to Exeter as before. A branch from this road passes through Luppit, and comes into it again about eight miles from Honiton. The road from Bath, by way of Ilchester, enters Devon about three miles from Chard, passes through Stockland (in a detached part of Dorsetshire, surrounded by Devon); near Cotleigh, to Honiton, and thence to Exeter.

The road from Honiton to Collumpton (11 miles) passes through Awliscombe, leaving Broad Hembury and Kentisbeare a little to the right. From Collumpton the road continues to Tiverton, about five miles.

From Wellington to Tiverton the road branches off beyond South Appledore, and passes through Sampford Peverell and Halberton. There is a turnpike road from Tiverton to Bampton, passing through a beautiful wooded vale by the side of the Exe; from Bampton it continues to Dulverton, leaving Devon about two miles beyond Bampton. A road branching from this crosses a nook of Somersetshire, and entering Devonshire again between five and six miles from Bampton, leaves East Anstey about a mile on the right, and Bishop's Nympton about the same distance on the left, and passes to South Molton.

The direct road from Tiverton to South Molton (19 miles) passes near Washfield, through Calverleigh, Loxbear, and Rackenford, leaving Knowestone on the right, and Creacombe, Rose Ash, and Bishop's Nympton, on the left. The turnpike-road from South Molton to Barnstaple (12 miles) passes through Filleigh, (within sight of Lord Fortescue's house and grounds,) through Swimbridge and Landkey.

From Barnstaple there are turnpike roads through Pilton and Marwood, leaving Ashford to the left and Bittadon to the right, to Ilfracombe, (ten miles); another, branching off at Pilton, and leaving Sherwell and Arlington on the right, through East Downe to Comb Martin.

The road from Exeter to Barnstaple, (40 miles,) leaving Upton Pyne on the right, and Newton St. Cyres on the left, passes to Crediton; thence through Sandford, near Morchard Bishops, leaving Lapford and Eggesford on the left, and Chawleigh on the right, to Chulmleigh; thence through Burrington, High Bickington and Atherington, leaving Yarnscombe on the left, through Bishop's Tawton, leaving Tawstock, (with Sir Bourchier Wrey's house and grounds,) on the left, to Barnstaple. From Chulmleigh a road branches off, leaving King's Nympton and Satterleigh on the left, and Romansleigh and George Nympton on the right, to South Molton (eight miles).

The turnpike-road from Barnstaple to Hartland, leaving Fremington, Instow, and Westleigh, on the right, passes through Eastleigh to Bideford (eight miles); thence, leaving Abbotsham and Clovelly on the right, and Littleham, Alwington, Parkham, and Wolfardisworthy on the left, to Hartland (12 miles). The turnpike-road from Barnstaple to Torrington (ten miles) leaves Tawstock, Newton Tracey, and Alverdiscot on the left, and Horwood and Hunshaw on the right. The turnpike-road from Torrington to South Molton (16 miles) leaves Stevenstone (Lord Rolle's) and St. Giles's church on the right, and Yarnscombe on the left, and passes through Atherington and Chittlehampton, leaving Honiton chapel on the right, to South Molton.

The turnpike-road from Torrington to Bideford (about six miles) passes through no village, leaving Hunshaw on the right, and Weare Giffard and Lancras on the left. The turnpike road from Torrington to Oakhampton passes through Little Torrington, leaves Peter Merland on the right, and Merton, Huish, and Meeth on the left, passes through Petrockstow to Hatherleigh, (11 miles,) thence to Oakhampton, leaving Inwardleigh on the right (seven miles).

From Hatherleigh to Holsworthy, (about 13 miles,) there is a turnpikeroad, which leaves Highampton, Black Torrington, and Cookbury, on the right, and Hollacombe on the left: the road continues thence to Stratton in Cornwall, leaving Pancrasweek on the right, and Bridgerule on the left. It leaves Devonshire between four and five miles beyond Holsworthy.

From Oakhampton, there is another turnpike-road to Exeter, passing through Crediton. The road from Oakhampton to Crediton (about 18 miles, now but little used,) passes through North Tawton, and Bow, or Nymet Tracey, leaving Clannaborough on the left, and Colebrooke on the right.

The turnpike-road from Crediton to Tiverton (12 miles) leaves Shobrooke, Stockleigh Pomeroy, and Cadbury, on the right, and Upton Helions, and Cheriton Fitzpayne, at somewhat greater distance on the left. The turnpike-road from Exeter to Tiverton (14 miles) passes through Stoke Canon and Rew, leaving Brampford Speke, Netherex, and Thorverton, on the left, and Poltimore and Huxham on the right, to Silverton. From this place there are two roads; one through Butterleigh, and the other through Bickleigh, to Tiverton.


In the year 1819, an act of parliament passed for making a rail-way, or tram-road, from Crabtree in the parish of Egg Buckland, to the prison on Dartmoor, for the conveyance of granite, lime, limestone, coal, culm, manure, &c. By a second act, in 1820, powers were given to extend it to the lime works at Catdown, and to Sutton Pool, at Plymouth. A third act passed, in 1821, to amend the former acts, and empower the commissioners to vary the line.

A rail-road has recently been completed at the expence of George Templer, Esq., from Heytor or High-tor rock, to the Stover canal, for the purpose of conveying granite.


  • n1. That of Walkhampton alone, is said to contain 10,000 acres. Haytor-down, on the east side, is also very extensive.
  • n2. Mr. Richard Hawkins, of Kingsbridge.
  • n3. As a confirmation of this observation, several plants, which occur only in the most Alpine situations, have been discovered on the higher parts of Dartmoor.
  • n4. This mine failed in the year 1810: since which new discoveries of veins of this mineral have been made in the parishes of Doddescombleigh, Ashton, Christow, &c., about seven miles west of Exeter. More recently, manganese pits have been opened in the parishes of Lifton, Lamerton, Coryton, Maristow, Brent Tor, Milton Abbots, Ilsington, and Lew Trenchard.
  • n5. For the article of Geology I have been indebted to John Hawkins, Esq., of Bignor park; the Rev. William Buckland, professor of geology and mineralogy in the university of Oxford, having kindly made some additions, and described the eastern part of the county.
  • n6. See p. 197.